Introducing Dr Victoria Smith-Collins. In her first in>pd blog piece she talks about her experience of working in different cultures and how she has been impacted by different working cultures over her career.
The phrase ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ was put forward by management guru Peter Drucker. When I first heard this it really resonated with me or should say ‘affected’ me.
You see, I have been living and working overseas for nearly a decade and have experienced living and working in cultures that are foreign to my own.
It has always intrigued me that people seem to see the world as black and white. Yet different cultures and subcultures have very contrasting ways of looking at the world (the lens through which they see reality) and different value systems that drive that reality.
I have worked in a range of organisations. Where I have observed the ‘living out’ of organisational cultural values that in reality, not only seem bizarre to me, but also not in alignment with the vision/mission and values espoused by those organisations.
Changing the Culture?
I was even employed by an organisation & tasked with the mission of ‘changing the culture’ but have found the task, in reality, to be draining whilst constantly swimming against the tide as those who employed me resisted the change in a profound manner.
My colleagues often fed back to me that they think I am a refreshing and bring a positive change to the organisation. Whilst at the same time commented that I would either not last long in the organisation, or I would ‘become’ like the organisation.
After a 3 year struggle (and a degree of positive change implementation that felt like a marathon task) I did indeed leave!
Research shows that you can normally survive around 18 months in that situation so I think I did relatively well!
I was left with the question, if they want change and they like what they see, and they employed me to carry it out, then why is it so impossible to achieve?
In my opinion, culture is like concrete. Although there may be visible cracks running right through it, achieving a true and positive shift requires commitment to a number of elements. I only mention a few here based on my practical experience.
Organisational values are built on the genuine, authentic and desired values of the people who work within the organisation. In contrast to the text book statements of vision, mission and strategy that look great in marketing material but are rarely lived out.
Recruitment and development that is based on finding alignment with those desired values and rewarding authentic living out of those values. Developing a culture of innovation and flexibility, where ideas are encouraged and positively implemented.
Communication is key!
Get people communicating positively and teams working in full alignment in order to achieve their full potential. Organisations are like people, they have a personality. In my opinion, that is an ongoing project of development that needs to be innovative, flexed and constantly updating with the demands of the environment.
Dr Victoria Smith-Collins
Associate tutor of in>Professional Development